Article 1: The SelfRegulation of Intergroup Perception: Mechanisms and Consequences of
THE WELLINTENTIONED COGNITIVE MISER: MENTAL DILEMMAS OF MUL
TICUL TURAL SOCIETIES
• The metaphor of the "cognitive miser" aptly captures the human tendency to "satisfice"
rather than optimize by engaging only in the amount of thought necessary to produce an
apparently adequate understanding of others.
• Making groupbased inferences is typically easily accomplished and bypasses the much
more effortful task of detecting and integrating the unique constellation of characteristics
possessed by a given individual.
Unless there is a pressing motivational impetus for accuracy, stereotyping may be
the preferred path to a social impression for most perceivers
• Whether a mental process can be characterized as "automatic"
• Automatic when they occur without the perceiver's conscious intent or awareness of
them, without the perceiver's ability to control them, or with an efficiency that requires little
investment of the perceiver's limited cognitive resources.
• Devine (1989) provided evidence that stereotypic associations can indeed be activated in
an automatic fashion.
She found that even individuals who do not personally subscribe to stereotypic
beliefs about African Americans were affected by these stereotypes when they had
been "primed" by the presentation of group labels
• Categorization leads to stereotyping
• The habitual nature of stereotyping is probably reinforced by the systematic information
processing biases that contribute to the creation of an illusory mental database supporting
• Stereotypeconfirming information tends to be processed more extensively and better
• It is clear that many people have developed explicit egalitarian values that they want to
embody in their thought and action, yet they have been socialized to hold stereotypic views
and prejudiced feelings toward many minority groups.
• When people are committed to egalitarian, nonprejudiced standards and their thoughts,
feelings, or behavior seem to violate
• These standards, they tend to become selffocused and direct effort at reducing this
GOVERNING THE SOCIETY OF MIND: SELFREGULATION OF MENTAL
• Baumeister and Newman reviewed evidence showing that when a per son prefers a specific
conclusion, he or she tends to process information in a biased way that permits exactly this
conclusion to be drawn intuitive lawyer
• What happens when people become cognizant of the potential for stereotypic bias and
attempt to avoid such untoward influences?
• In this situation, effortful, controlled processes are set in motion in order to counter the
effects of automatic ones
1 MidtermArticle Notes
• Wegner model starts with the realization that for any control process to be effective, it must
be able both to test the status of the environment and to operate on the environment when the
test process yields less than satisfactory results
• In the case of mental control, there must be a process to monitor mental contents and a
process to operate on mental contents when the monitoring process detects an undesired
• When the social perceiver resolves to suppress stereotypic reactions to an outgroup member,
this goal sets in motion a monitoring process that iteratively scans the mind for any sign of
the unwanted stereotypic concepts
• When unwanted thoughts threaten to (or actually do) impinge on consciousness, the
monitoring process triggers the instigation of the operating process in order to prevent the
• The monitoring process is thought to be largely automatic and unconscious, the operating
process is considered to be effortful; operating process is resourcedependent
THE BESTLAID PLANS OF MISERS AND MEN: IRONIES OF COGNITIVE SELF
• Because of the resourceconsuming nature of the operating process, efforts at mental
control are likely to fail unless cognitive resources are sufficiently plentiful to support the
search for distracters
• Because of the social perceiver's miserly tendencies, the possibility of effortful processes
overriding the "quick and easy" alternative of stereotyping may be particularly diminished
when processing resources are in short supply.
• The monitoring process has to "know" what it is looking for, and this paradoxically
requires the continuous, albeit lowlevel activation of a relevant stereotype criterion.
• Under conditions of thought suppression, the monitoring process is engaged in a feature
positive search while the operating process is engaged in a featurenegative search
• Feature positive searches are easier therefore the very act of suppressing a thought can
ironically result in its becoming hyperaccessible in memory
• Initial evidence that stereotype suppressers are quite prone to engaging in perversely
• Recent evidence suggests that the intention to suppress stereotypes can backfire even in
the absence of any appreciable cognitive load.
The intention to inhibit the stereotype may simply dissipate over time. Because
thought suppression is an active, effortful process, the cognitive miser may sometimes
be hard pressed to maintain the motivation
• A rebound effect is said to occur when oncesuppressed thoughts return to exert an
• These studies (pg 239240) show that social perceivers can successfully inhibit
stereotypic responses while they are actively striving to do so, but once they stop making this
effort, the stereotypes return to affect their thoughts and actions to an even greater degree.
• When social perceivers are trying not to stereotype others, they presumably are trying to
form individuated impressions.
• But forming individuated impressions is regarded as an effortful, resourceconsuming
2 MidtermArticle Notes
• If perceivers are using up a portion of their available resources in the task of trying to
suppress stereotypes, this will leave fewer resources for the equally important task of forming
an individuated impression of the target; they may be less able to process simultaneously the
unique individuating information that is available as a basis for their social impressions
• Consistent with the hypothesis that stereotype suppression efforts can reduce the amount
of processing devoted to individuating information, results indicated that stereotype
suppressors remembered significantly less of the stereotype irrelevant information about the
target than did the nonsuppressors.
• Suppressors ironically remembered more of the tobe disregarded stereotypic material.
• The considerable attentional requirements of stereotype suppression appear to inhibit the
processing of individuating information about stereotyped targets, at least under some
• If stereotype suppressors are not basing their impressions on their stereotypes or the
individuating information, then what are they basing them on?
• One strong possibility is that they are simply relying on an override mechanism that
directly adjusts their impressions in a non stereotypic direction, consistent with the
instruction they have been given
• Then the social impression may be just as superficial as if it were based exclusively on
• If called on later to make judgments about the target, the person may have very little to
go on other than stereotypes about the target's group, precisely because of the impoverished
impression that resulted from the struggle to suppress stereotypic information.
CAN SOCIAL PERCEIVERS DO THE RIGHT THING?
• People seem to be rather good at convincing themselves that they are not reacting to out
group members in a prejudiced way
• Research shows that White participants encountering Blacks who are in need of
assistance are significantly less helpful to these individuals than they are to Whites in
identical circumstances, if there is some sort of nonracial factor that can be used to justify or
rationalize the more negative response
• People may be less helpful to an apparently lazy Black, convincing them that it is the
laziness rather than the ethnicity of the person that is causing their negative reaction.
However, a comparably lazy White elicits significantly more helpfulness, indicating that
ethnicity is indeed a crucial factor.
Whereas lowprejudice individuals may be consistently motivated to engage in
stereotype suppression in order to avoid the unpleasant compunction associated with
violating their own egalitarian standards, others may be more concerned with